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Mediation offers powerful option for life’s conflicts

endotune/Can Stock Photo ##
endotune/Can Stock Photo ##

What would you immediately think if you were in a conversation with someone who brought up the topic of mediation? Yeah, me too.

Before I was approached about the position of executive director for Your Community Mediators, I probably would have feigned interest as I internally struggled not to roll my eyes and think about something else. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in the subject. I just really didn’t know anything about it.

Guest Writer

Chuck Pattishall is a professional speaker who conducts leadership sessions through the Chuck Pattishall Company LLC. He is also the newly named executive director of Your Community Mediators of Yamhill County. He holds a B.A. in history and world religions from the University of Tampa, an M.B.A. in international management from George Fox University and post-graduate certificates in executive and personal coaching. He has taught scuba diving in the Caribbean, served as district sales manager for a Fortune 500 company and owned two Oregon insurance agencies.

What is mediation? What exactly do mediators do?

Please bear with me as I get the technical stuff out of the way first. If you look up mediation on Wikipedia, it states:

“Mediation is a dynamic, structured, interactive process where a neutral third party assists disputing parties in resolving conflict through the use of specialized communication and negotiation techniques. All participants in mediation are encouraged to actively participate in the process.

“Mediation is a “party-centered” process in that it is focused primarily upon the needs, rights, and interests of the parties. The mediator uses a wide variety of techniques to guide the process in a constructive direction and to help the parties find their optimal solution. A mediator is facilitative in that she/he manages the interaction between parties and facilitates open communication.”

But what do YCM mediators actually do for the cities and citizens of Yamhill County?

Good question. Let me tell you, when I explored this position, I was absolutely amazed at what I found.

Did you know that for almost 30 years, Yamhill County residents and organizations have used YCM’s conflict dispute resolution program as a “first resort” to peacefully resolve conflict? That for the past few years, government agencies have supported YCM because they recognize the value of resolving conflict in their communities? That Yamhill County has formally defined mediation as one of its essential services?

I had no idea YCM provided conflict resolution education at the Yamhill County Juvenile Detention Center, or that it offered family meeting workshops allowing effective communication tools to address domestic, relationship and custody issues peacefully and respectfully. And that’s just a start.

YCM helps mediate parent/teen conflicts, elder issues, other family situations, consumer and merchant disputes, workplace problems, teen vandalism and litter resolutions, other victim/teen offender resolutions, adult victim/offender resolutions in some cases, truancy and school issues, corporate management conflicts, animal control and nuisance issues, landlord/tenant disputes, neighborhood issues, small claims filings, and property, harassment, noise and boundary conflicts. It also offers conflict resolution training in school, business and detention locations, including peer-to-peer mediation training in the schools.

That piqued my interest. As I investigated further, I learned:

n The National Crime Prevention Council is joined by city and county law enforcement agencies in considering mediation a key crime prevention tool.

n Mediation prevents disputes from escalating, cultivates problem-solving skills and nurtures positive relationships within families, neighborhoods, businesses and communities.

n The cost of mediation is significantly less than repeated involvement by law enforcement and the courts.

n The likelihood mediated agreements will be fulfilled is much higher than if a resolution is imposed by an outside party — typically 90 to 95 percent.

n YCM is able to address urgent cases quickly, even the same day in some cases,

That got me hooked. I just had to become part of this organization.

Already, I have witnessed some pretty amazing results from mediation.

I have seen spouses with small children, on the verge of a total marriage collapse, reach an agreement to move back together and implement a plan to work out their relationship and parenting issues. I have had a husband, tears in his eyes, shake my hand and tell me how wonderful our mediators were and how grateful he is for YCM.

I have witnessed members of a family business, on the verge of suing each other and tearing asunder their business and personal relationships, force an agreement allowing them to move forward after all. I have witnessed board members approach YCM to work on the relationship dynamics of an organization, in order to better serve the members of that organization.

All of this is done by 25 amazing, highly trained volunteers. These wonderful people go through 35 hours of basic mediation training approved by the state — at their own expense — because they care about our mission.

They appreciate and understand the power of mediation. Many specialize in areas that call for more training and education, such as elder issues, corporate facilitation, corporate conflict resolution and conflict coaching for individuals, and go on to get that training.

Looking ahead, YCM is working on a partnership program with local law enforcement agencies. It is convinced a referral system would help agencies improve commander-to-officer and officer-to-citizen relationships and streamline overall operations.

It is also bent on expanding its peer-to-peer mediation program, which trains students to arbitrate conflicts among their school peers before issues escalate to the point of getting out of hand. YCM is also aiming to expand mediation and mediation training programs designed to address conflict resolution in the business community, reducing EEOC claims, avoiding lawsuits and increasing productivity.

I couldn’t be more excited about the future of YCM and am proud to be part of it.

I can tell you, I couldn’t be happier that I didn’t roll my eyes and change the subject when first approached about mediation. Because I explored what it is and what it can do, my eyes were opened.

I hope this has helped open yours as well.

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